Is Munich a “remake” of a TV-movie?

I mentioned in my review of Munich that George Jonas’s 1984 book Vengeance, on which Steven Spielberg’s film is based, had been adapted once before, as a 1986 TV-movie called Sword of Gideon. Now, in today’s National Post, the producer of that film calls Spielberg’s film a “remake”:

Robert Lantos, the Canadian film producer, yesterday said Munich, the new film by Hollywood mogul Steven Spielberg, is a “remake” of Mr. Lantos’s film of 20 years ago, Sword of Gideon. And he said that limits Mr. Spielberg’s chances at an Academy Award.

Mr. Lantos said the Spielberg team is trying to keep a lid on the similarities between the two films.

Speaking on the telephone yesterday from Los Angeles, Mr. Lantos said, “If I were on the other side, having made films that have been in contention for Oscars and Golden Globes — and that is clearly the path that the makers of Munich would like to be on — I would consider wide public awareness that the film is a remake of an old movie for HBO as something that I would prefer to keep quiet. Because Academy Award voters have a tendency to like original work more than remakes.”

And on what does Lantos base the claim that Munich is a remake of Sword of Gideon? To judge from this story, his claim would seem to rest on little more than a single scene:

In an interview in the Wall Street Journal last week, Martin Levy, a spokesman for Mr. Spielberg, insisted that neither Mr. Spielberg nor Tony Kushner, the screenwriter of Munich, had seen the earlier Lantos film.

Asked about that comment, Mr. Lantos, who now heads a new company, Serendipity Point Films, said, “If that’s the case, then they have a highly developed sixth sense.”

Both films include a scene that is not in Mr. Jonas’s book: a shot of an Israeli agent named Avner picking up the tobacco pipe of a fallen team member in a London hotel room.

Even so, Mr. Lantos, whose recent credits including produced the Atom Egoyan film Where the Truth Lies and the Annette Bening film Being Julia, insists he bears no ill will toward Mr. Spielberg.

“I think it’s a very well-made film,” Mr. Lantos said of Munich. “It’s more of a compliment than anything else. I sold the company some time ago and the library stayed with the company. They in turn sold the remake rights to Spielberg and got paid for it, so he can do whatever he wants, including re-enact scenes exactly the way they were shot.”

Jonas himself brushes aside these sorts of similarities between the films, but then he passes on this interesting anecdote:

Mr. Jonas had his own travails with Mr. Spielberg, which he chronicled in Maclean’s magazine last week. At one point Hollywood producer Barry Mendel, who helped make Munich with Mr. Spielberg, somehow learned that Mr. Jonas was to attend a Dec. 6 screening of the film in Los Angeles for the Golden Globes. Mr. Mendel called Mr. Jonas and asked him not to come to L.A.

“I understand,” wrote Mr. Jonas. “There’s no telling how an author might react to the Hollywood version of his book under the … circumstances. The producers don’t want to take a chance that I might rain on Spielberg’s parade.”

In the event, Mr. Jonas prefers the earlier film. “Lantos’s movie does not have a post-Zionist zing and since I’m not a post-Zionist, I prefer [it],” he said.

Finally, click here for Jonas’s lengthy Maclean’s piece, which traces the origins of this film from the 1972 massacre itself to the 1984 book to the 1998 inquiry about the remake rights to the 2005 film itself, which Jonas apparently doesn’t like.

About Peter T. Chattaway

Peter T. Chattaway was the regular film critic for BC Christian News from 1992 to 2011. In addition to his film column, which won multiple awards from the Evangelical Press Association, the Canadian Church Press and the Fellowship of Christian Newspapers, his news and opinion pieces have appeared in such publications as Books & Culture, Christianity Today, Bible Review and the Vancouver Sun. He also contributed essays to the books Re-Viewing The Passion: Mel Gibson’s Film and Its Critics (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004) and Scandalizing Jesus?: Kazantzakis’s The Last Temptation of Christ Fifty Years on (Continuum, 2005).

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08741378159534413277 Magnus

    Elijah said that the two were very similar as well. He felt there were some key differences, but overall they were very similar. I don’t remember the Sword of Gideon at all.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07698802395603296603 The Cubicle Reverend

    Is it even worth watching these based on a true story movies any more? It seems they are more fiction than fact anymore.


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